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Finding Employment Data Has Turned Into Work

The government shutdown may have prevented the Bureau of Labor Statistics from releasing its regular monthly trove of employment data last week, but that doesn’t mean all windows on the labor market are closed.

Other data releases from nongovernmental groups suggest that had the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its figures, they would not have shown much or any improvement in the job market. In fact, it’s very likely the unemployment rate would have stayed relatively steady.

According to Gallup’s monthly employment report, the “payroll-to-population rate” declined between August and September and now stands at 43.5 percent. The rate measures the percentage of the U.S. population over 18 employed by an employer and working at least 30 hours a week. The September rate is lower than it was in September 2012 and roughly the same as that of September 2011 and 2010, leading Gallup to conclude “there has been essentially no growth in full-time employment for an employer since at least 2010.”

But the report also suggests more people are going to work for themselves, perhaps after trying unsuccessfully to get a job with an employer.

Roughly 5.3 percent of the population is now self-employed, Gallup says, up from 5.1 percent in August and 5 percent last September.

Gallup’s report also had some distressing news about part-time workers. It found that 9.4 percent of workforce was working part-time but wanted a full-time job, up from 8.6 last September.

Unlike the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gallup surveys are not seasonally adjusted, which means month-to-month fluctuations are less relevant than changes over the same month in previous years. Gallup polls 30,000 people age 18 and older every month, compared with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ sample size of 60,000 people age 16 and older.

A separate study from the Brookings Institution predicted the unemployment rate for September would continue its agonizingly slow decline and slip to 7.2 percent, from 7.3 percent in August.

The Conference Board was slightly more optimistic. In its monthly survey of online help-wanted ads, the business association found an increase of 210,000 job postings.

According to the Conference Board, there are 2.3 unemployed workers for every available job.

And the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas found the number of job cuts that employers were planning fell to 40,289 in September, down sharply from 50,462 in August. Overall, however, the firm found no difference in the number of planned job cuts in 2013 compared to 2012.

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